Head Of Operations, GT Diagnostics
A mobile app to test for cognitive decline could help streamline the process of diagnosing people who may have Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Results from five-minute home tests may highlight deteriorating cognitive health and enable healthcare professionals to make an early assessment.
Dementia detection with an app
Dr Linda Sommerlade, Head of Operations at GT Diagnostics, says home monitoring adds an important dimension to dementia assessment. “Cognitive decline happens slowly; and if there is no way to measure it, it takes longer to realise that something has changed,” she explains. Measuring subtle changes in brain health via a mobile app can facilitate an early identification of memory problems, leading to timely treatment.
Memory test for cognitive changes
GT Diagnostics, which aims to transfer research in Alzheimer’s and dementia diagnosis into clinical practice, has created a cognitive health app called HiPAL. It is a memory test to measure a person’s cognitive health status. “It is about remembering objects and their locations,” Sommerlade explains. “It is designed to be difficult, so even a healthy person will have trouble getting everything correct.”
The test captures and measures small changes in memory performance. “If the test is too easy, and half the population always get a full score, you won’t notice if something changes.” The test is self-administered and can be started at any time. An algorithm checks the answers and calculates a score between 0–100. The test, which accounts for age and sex, also shows a ‘healthy’ reference range, which is 55–80, to help users judge their performance.
If the test is too easy, and half the population always get a full score, you won’t notice if something changes
Removing barriers to seeking assessment
Implementation into clinical practice is expected early next year in the UK, and a version for medical professionals is already available in America. However, Sommerlade notes that there can be stigma around memory loss that may delay an individual seeking help, and many people still believe memory problems are part of normal ageing. Doing the test at home reduces the hurdle of deciding when to go to the doctor.
Offering reassurance and remote monitoring
Patients, clinicians and healthcare systems can benefit from home monitoring of cognitive deterioration at a time of growing incidence of dementia. It can offer reassurance to people if the score is good or lead them to seek an earlier appointment if scores are not so good. “For healthcare systems, it will streamline the process,” Sommerlade insists. “If patients have data to hand, it enables doctors to form an opinion more quickly and decide on the next step.” After diagnosis, the app enables patients to track progress and cognitive changes.